If you read my last post on the value of upgrading your Mac to an SSD to push the performance of your computer to Ludicrous Speed and you’ve “gone plaid,” then you’re ready for the next step in your quest to become one of the greatest power users of our time. Alright, I’ve undoubtedly oversold the tips below, but I can tell you I’m an experienced user and these tips will bring you to a new level of efficiency.
It’s been known for some time now that when deployed properly, using multiple monitors has a positive impact on user productivity. It’s also known that too much screen real-estate, when deployed improperly, will start to reduce these gains in productivity. Enter Spaces, a feature of OSX that allows you to leverage nearly infinite desktop space without the hassle of daisy-chaining an absurd number of monitors, and adds the functions necessary to protect against screen real-estate overload.
To start using Spaces, press control + up; from that shortcut, you’ll be in “Mission Control” which is essentially an overview of your current spaces and open windows. To add more spaces, mouse over to the top right corner of your screen and hit the “+” icon that slides into view. Congratulations! You’ve just doubled your desktop area. My recommendation is to try 4 separate spaces, which is 8 desktops when used with a second monitor. To become a master of Spaces, check out this post from maclife.com. If you’ve used Spaces in the past, but were not totally sold, try it again but this time make sure each desktop is housing a full screen app; you’ll likely find this is a much more efficient setup than stacking countless windows on top of each other.
This is the zen art of never storing even a single file on your desktop, at least whenever possible. Desktop Zero is probably both the easiest tip to execute and possibly the most difficult, depending on how much of slob you are when it comes to file management. This practice will force you to create a deliberate and well-organized file structure for all of your most important working files, which increases your efficiency across the board.
My approach to Desktop Zero is simple: Anything I’m actively working on for a period of time can live on my desktop, but as soon as it becomes disposable it’s trashed, or if it’s finished it is filed away safely. There are instances where a project can span weeks or even months; in those cases, I pack up my files at the end of the day and remove them from my desktop and then work out of that project folder and continue to use my desktop as a temporary holding area for working files that are currently being use to augment the unfinished final documents. You’ll become a better, more focused user and your computer will thank you by booting faster and responding more quickly because you’ll have freed up a good portion of its active memory.
For ZERO dollars you can have a personal butler that responds to your commands using simple key strokes; Alfred can execute files, open applications, open web pages, and do just about anything you can imagine. Gone are the days of hunting through app folders or even Apple’s new Launch Pad. Simply tap two keys and tell Alfred what to do. It’s difficult to describe the value that Alfred can bring to you because it can do so much and it can be easily customized depending on the user’s needs. Check out Alfred in the App Store to learn more.
Siri… Learn to Love her/him/it
I’m the first to admit that Siri is not exactly the “amazing” digital assistant Apple thinks SHE is, but she’s always getting better. Within the next decade, Siri will become smart enough to actively monitor your habits and make decisions without requiring input from you. Because of this, you better learn how to leverage your relationship with her, otherwise you may end up becoming her human play thing. Perhaps that prediction is not totally accurate, but the point is that Siri is just a small taste of what our interactions with computers will be like. That being said, here are a few input commands that Siri is competent enough to carry out now that iOS 6 is out. For now, I’ll use her to keep tabs on football’s greatest quarterback, Drew Brees.